Issues of homelessness ongoing in Abbotsford

A homeless camp on Gladys Avenue was issued an eviction notice last week, moving residents to a new site down the road

  • Sep. 17, 2013 5:00 a.m.
A homeless camp on Montvue Avenue

A homeless camp on Montvue Avenue

Alex BUTLER and Kevin MILLS

Some of Abbotsford’s homeless residents have returned to the “Happy Tree” – but not everyone is happy about the relocation of the Gladys Avenue homeless camp.

The tree – located across from the Salvation Army – was the centre of a controversy in June after city crews dumped manure on the site in an apparent effort to deter the homeless.

Occupants moved down the road and the camp grew – bringing in tents, tarps and a rapidly growing mess – until it was deemed a health hazard by the Fraser Health Authority (FHA).  Last week the site was issued a 48-hour eviction notice, although no residents were forcibly removed.

Two pickup trucks from 5 and 2 Ministries, a local organization that advocates for the homeless, were loaded with possessions and driven up the road about 75 metres back to the Happy Tree.

“The circular motion of this move is indicative of the progress that has been made with the homeless issue: zero,” said Jesse Wegenast of 5 and 2, adding that the people will likely stay until they are moved again.

City crews blocked off the old camp and a private contractor was called in to clean up, at a cost of approximately $6,000.

Mayor Bruce Banman was present for the move and said his goal was for the city to be respectful and make the cleanup as non-traumatic as possible.

The decision to close the camp was made in consultation with service groups, who agreed the site had become a health hazard. Banman said “there is a new level of co-operation and understanding” surrounding camp closures that he said he believes will continue as the organizations work together towards solutions.

He said he wasn’t surprised the camp merely shifted to its old location, acknowledging that “the most likely place for them to move was back to the Happy Tree. “

Banman said the continued habitation on Gladys Avenue will not address the true issues of homelessness, or the negative impact the camps have on neighbours in the area.

“I feel for the neighbours … They can’t sell their homes, businesses in the area are having trouble leasing properties because, unfortunately, if you had a choice, it wouldn’t be the first.”

Another homeless camp on Montvue Avenue – located on land owned by Abbotsford Community Services (ACS), where the organization has proposed to build a 20-unit supportive housing facility for homeless men – is also in the process of clearing out.

But Rod Santiago, executive director of ACS, said members of the police, city bylaw staff and service groups are working together to find long-term solutions for residents of the site.

Santiago said about seven people were living there, raising concern from neighbours and businesses, which were understanding about allowing for a period of time to help find individual solutions for the homeless residents.

The area has been fenced off and a deadline has been set for Wednesday to have the site vacated.

Santiago said that by Monday (yesterday) afternoon, the last couple on the site would hopefully be set up in a permanent apartment, leaving one final individual on the site until a solution can be found.

“It requires more time and patience from the parties involved, but in the end, it actually provides a solution rather than moving people 75 metres down the road.”

Though the city is working towards solutions, Banman said the question on how to solve homelessness is not unique to Abbotsford, and not solely a municipal issue.

Banman said part of the solution may have to come from higher political sources like the provincial and federal governments, as the city lacks the resources and expertise to deal with all aspects of the issue. Banman said another part of the problem is addressing issues of mental health, which falls under the mandate of the FHA.

Banman said that will be addressed at this week’s meeting of the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM), which he is attending. He added that Abbotsford is not the only community looking for solutions to such problems.

Local politicians from communities such as Maple Ridge and Delta have asked the UBCM to support them in calls for new centres for mental health and addiction, and for the reopening of the Riverview mental hospital in Coquitlam as a centre for mental health care.

Banman said he plans to talk with provincial ministers as well as mayors of others communities to learn about different approaches to homelessness.

He said no community has found a perfect solution for solving homelessness, and finding an appropriate approach for Abbotsford will take time.

“Just because we are under the limelight doesn’t mean we should jump at the first idea.”

Just Posted

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Pedestrian hit by police vehicle in Langley

Injuries described as serious, requiring surgery

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read